Archive for March, 2009


Stand with Governor Howard Dean for Universal Health Insurance

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Former Governor of Vermont, former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and soon-to-be Chelsea Green author Howard Dean just launched a new website with DemocracyforAmerica.com that aims to bring the universal health care option to the forefront of the health care reform debate. At StandwithDrDean.com, you can add your name to the petition or contribute to Dr. Dean’s efforts.

Here’s the wording of the petition:

Give America a choice. We support healthcare reform that allows individual Americans to choose either a universally available public healthcare option like Medicare or for-profit private insurance. A public option is the only way to guarantee healthcare for all Americans and its inclusion is non- negotiable.

Any legislation without the choice of a public option is only insurance reform and not the healthcare reform America needs.

Governor Dean’s book will be a guide to health care reform. That’s all I can say at the moment—that, and that we’re very excited to have Dr. Dean on board the Chelsea Green Publishing express train to Changeville (with stops at Hopetown, Progress Hills, and, um…Stratford).

Hi. I’m Governor Howard Dean—Doctor Howard Dean.

The state of healthcare in this country has been pretty troubled for the last 60 years, ever since Harry Truman promised that we would join with every other Democratic industrialized nation in the world and have a universal health care system for all our folks—and it hasn’t happened. And since that time over 15% of Americans don’t have any health insurance. But the increasing problem is those Americans that do have health insurance can’t rely on it. They’re denied coverage if they get sick. They can’t get coverage if they have a preexisting illness…. They can only choose from a private menu of private insurance companies that take between 30 and 50% of all the dollars you pay them and put them in things that have nothing to do with healthcare, such as shareholders’ equity, big CEO salaries, and administration. We can fix this system.

Barack Obama has a new idea. He talked about it during his campaign. It’s to allow you to keep whatever you have if you like it. But if you have no insurance, or you can’t get insurance, or your company that you work for is too small to be able to afford insurance, he has a plan where you can get help from the government to sign yourself up for exactly what your Congressman has.

Or you can choose a public option—like Medicare, which grandparents and parents have had for many many years, since 1964. In Medicare, only 4% of your healthcare dollars end up in administration. And none of it ends up in shareholders’ or big executives’ salaries.

That makes all the difference. By being able to choose a public option, you can have what so many people around the world have, which is a guaranteed health care plan that works for you. The public option makes all the difference, because there are enormous forces in Congress today—mostly the health insurance industry of America—that are fighting against this. They think they’re going to get put out of business if this goes in.

The truth is, Americans deserve a choice. You deserve the same choices that everybody else has in the industrialized world. You deserve a choice of having a public option. So StandwithDrDean.com. I’m proud to be here at the offices of DemocracyforAmerica.com, where we can make a difference, and you can make a difference.

We need you to sign up today. Sign up…on the petition online, go to the Web site, talk to your friends, get them to sign up. We aim to have 200,000 signatures sent to Congress in a few months. You need to be part of that. The power is in your hands. And with it, we’re going to change America.

Sign up or contribute.

Investigative Journalism: Mark Schapiro Unleashed

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Author Mark Schapiro (Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for American Power) and Australian investigative journalist Marian Wilkinson discuss the ins and outs of investigative reporting with host Leigh Sales in this video from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation program Unleashed. How does the shrinking of newspapers and the rise of the internet affect traditional investigative journalism? How do you “tweak” a story angle to package it for different outlets? And how does a freelancer make money, anyway, when he or she has to work on a story for a month before finding an interested buyer?

The interview is an hour and eight minutes long, so grab a bowl of popcorn and get comfy. I don’t know about you, but I could listen to Mark’s gravelly voice all day.

Watch Now

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food: The Slow Food Ideology

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

With Michelle Obama planting an organic vegetable garden (which I like to think of as a “victory garden”) in the White House, it’s the perfect time to be thinking about local eating, climate change, pesticides, GMO crops, and connecting with the growers of our food.

The Marin Independent journal spoke to Chelsea Green author Woody Tasch and others actively involved in this new movement:

Investor and environmental activist Edward “Woody” Tasch sees a lot in common between the mortgage-backed securities that helped bring about the global recession and a typical American hamburger.

“No one is quite sure where the meat in a hamburger comes from,” Tasch told his audience last week at a discussion of the “slow food” movement at Fort Baker’s Cavallo Point Lodge. “It might come from hundreds of different animals. And no one is sure where the money for each of those securities came from.”

Recent food scares like January’s discovery of salmonella in peanut products made by a Georgia plant and the 2006 identification of E. coli bacteria in spinach have fueled interest in the movement’s mantra of small-scale agriculture and locally grown food, said Elizabeth Ptak, a spokeswoman for the Marin Agricultural Land Trust.

“This is part of a very timely national conversation,” Ptak said. “People want to know where their food came from and who grew it. Writers like (“The Omnivore’s Dilemma” author) Michael Pollan and (“Fast Food Nation” author) Eric Schlosser have helped people become much more aware of these issues, and (first lady) Michelle Obama planting a garden on the White House lawn is part of that change as well.”

As an investor, Tasch – the author of “[Inquiries into the Nature of] Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered” – eschews massive mutual funds in favor of small, local businesses where his contribution can make an impact on his community.

As a consumer and an eater, Tasch and others who tout “slow food” believe buying food that is grown and sold locally, using small-scale or organic methods, can have the same positive impact on their health, and the health of the environment.

“The closer food is produced to where it is consumed, the greater the likelihood that it will be fresh, in-season and better tasting, and that getting it to market will use less energy and produce less pollution,” declared the American Farmland Trust in a study of the Bay Area’s “foodshed” released last week.

Amelia Spilger puts it another way.

“Farmers need customers. Eaters need nutrient-dense foods. And those foods need local farmers,” said Spilger, a market manager at Marin Farmers Markets. “It all goes hand in hand.”

According to the University of California’s Sibella Kraus, the meaning of “slow food” has less to do with whether food is organic, locally grown or sustainably produced. Instead, it’s about the relationship between the person who grows food and the person who eats it.

“It’s not an ideology that says food grown within 75 miles is good, but within 50 miles is better,” said Kraus, director of UC Berkeley’s Agriculture in Metropolitan Regions program. “The farms need to have a personal resonance for the consumer. The places where people grow our food are places we should visit. We need a better understanding of who grows our food.”

Read the whole article here.

WATCH: Rebecca Hosking: Post-Peak Farming

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

This really fascinating film by farmer Rebecca Hosking is a must-watch for anyone concerned about the future of farming in a post peak oil world. Rebecca, a nature photographer and filmmaker, returns to her small childhood farm, where she becomes aware of the looming oil crisis and how it will affect not just her farm, but all farms, and indeed the world’s food supply. To paraphrase one farmer, we’re approaching not just another energy crisis, but a full-blown energy famine. It’s time to look at our options.

(h/t transitionus.ning.com)

RH: Basically, this sandwich, like most of the food that we’re eating today, is absolutely dripping in oil. And the way that our food production is today, if we didn’t have places like this [points to a fuel processing plant], then in this country we’d pretty much starve.

Connecting with Your Farmer: the Traceability Revolution

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Now this is a great idea. FindtheFarmer is a Web site that helps connect you to your food by linking back to the original farmer that grew the grain that became the bread in your BLT. It’s just one of several Web sites helping people connect to their food in a way that’s been mostly lost to us through the industrialization of the food supply.

It’s funny how technology seems to be coming full circle, to both expand and shrink our world: technology created distance and anonymity between farmer and eater, and now technology is pointing the way backwards.

From the New York Times:

The maker of Stone-Buhr flour, a popular brand in the western United States, is encouraging its customers to reconnect with their lost agrarian past, from the comfort of their computer screens. Its Find the Farmer Web site and special labels on the packages let buyers learn about and even contact the farmers who produced the wheat that went into their bag of flour.

The underlying idea, broadly called traceability, is in fashion in many food circles these days. Makers of bananas, chocolates and other foods are also using the Internet to create relationships between consumers and farmers, mimicking the once-close ties that were broken long ago by industrialized food manufacturing.

Traceability can be good for more than just soothing the culinary consciences of foodies. Congress is also studying the possibility of some kind of traceability measure as a way to minimize the impact of food scares like the recent peanut salmonella crisis.

The theory: if food producers know they’re being watched, they’ll be more careful. The Stone-Buhr flour company, a 100-year-old brand based in San Francisco, is giving the buy-local food movement its latest upgrade. Beginning this month, customers who buy its all-purpose whole wheat flour in some Wal-Mart, Safeway and other grocery chains can go to findthefarmer .com, enter the lot code printed on the side of the bag, and visit with the company’s farmers and even ask them questions.

“The person who puts that scone in their mouth can now say, ‘Oh my God, there’s a real person behind this,’ ” said Read Smith, 61, who runs Cherry Creek Ranch, a 10,000-acre farm and cattle ranch in Eastern Washington. “They are going to bite into that bread or pastry and know whose hands were on the product.”

Read the whole article here.

Urban Gardener R. J. Ruppenthal Tells How He Makes the Most of His Small Space

Monday, March 30th, 2009

You want to garden—to grow your own fresh organic vegetables from seed using your own two hands, and maybe a bit of compost you created from your vegetable peelings and bits of cardboard. The only problem: you don’t have a garden. In fact, you live in a sad, one-room, one-window shoebox in the big city. Guess you’re S.O.L., right? Not so fast, grasshopper…

Author R. J. Ruppenthal sheds some light on the inspiration for Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting and shares some tips and tricks from the book in this article from the San Francisco Chronicle.

R.J. Ruppenthal is all about growing the maximum amount of food in the smallest amount of space, and sometimes that means using the back of a kitchen cabinet for mushrooms or the clutter-prone top of the refrigerator for sprouts.

And no, those jars on the counter haven’t been neglected, but are actually filled with beneficial microflora, turning common vegetables into the nutritional powerhouse kimchi.

An avid gardener, Ruppenthal has yet to get discouraged living most of his adult life in a small urban space. Any frustration he experienced was from not finding a resource book addressing the challenges of small-space gardening.

So he decided to write the book he couldn’t find. “Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting and Sprouting” (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2008) serves the urban dweller well with practical advice on starting a beginning garden in obvious and not-so-obvious spaces.

“I’d like people to know that you can grow (some of your own) food in small spaces, even if you do not have a big backyard. Balconies, patios, rooftops, windowsills, doorsteps and even countertops and cabinets are all usable spots,” says Ruppenthal, who lives in Millbrae and teaches at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose.

The more he gardened, the more creative he became with the space he had. When he ran out of usable ground space he turned to vertical gardening, including vining beans and peas, hanging baskets full of cherry tomatoes and strawberries, and espalier apple and multigrafted fruit trees.

Through trial and error, he realized that many plants could grow without the required minimum light. Granted, carrots might not grow big and greens might not reach their full potential, but these less-developed vegetables were certainly edible.

Read the whole article here.

 

Related articles:

Now Available! The Winter Harvest Handbook, by Eliot Coleman (Video)

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Eliot Coleman’s new book The Winter Harvest Manual: Year-Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses just cruised into our warehouse this morning, and therefore, we are ready to send you your copy!

Get a jump on your garden this spring by making use of Eliot’s proven techniques for intensive cold-weather farming. You too can produce your own fresh organic produce all year long…even in colder climates.

Here’s a video in which Eliot discusses his beginnings in organic farming and how he came to be a farmer in  Harborside, Maine.

Here’s a description of the book:

whh_image2.pngFrom the bestselling author of The New Organic Grower and Four-Season Harvest, a revolutionary guide to year-round harvests of fresh, organic produce—with little or no energy inputs.

Choosing locally grown organic food is a sustainable living trend that’s taken hold throughout North America. Celebrated farming expert Eliot Coleman helped start this movement with The New Organic Grower published 20 years ago. He continues to lead the way, pushing the limits of the harvest season while working his world-renowned organic farm in Harborside, Maine.

Now, with his long-awaited new book, The Winter Harvest Handbook, anyone can have access to his hard-won experience. Gardeners and farmers can use the innovative, highly successful methods Coleman describes in this comprehensive handbook to raise crops throughout the coldest of winters.

Building on the techniques that hundreds of thousands of farmers and gardeners adopted from The New Organic Grower and Four-Season Harvest, this new book focuses on growing produce of unparalleled freshness and quality in customized unheated or, in some cases, minimally heated, movable plastic greenhouses.

Coleman offers clear, concise details on greenhouse construction and maintenance, planting schedules, crop management, harvesting practices, and even marketing methods in this complete, meticulous, and illustrated guide. Readers have access to all the techniques that have proven to produce higher-quality crops on Coleman’s own farm.

His painstaking research and experimentation with more than 30 different crops will be valuable to small farmers, homesteaders, and experienced home gardeners who seek to expand their production seasons.

A passionate advocate for the revival of small-scale sustainable farming, Coleman provides a practical model for supplying fresh, locally grown produce during the winter season, even in climates where conventional wisdom says it “just can’t be done.”

More Information about The Winter Harvest Handbook

Got a green lifestyle, sustainable living, or gardening blog? Would you like to review this book? Send an email to [email protected] with a brief description of your blog, a link, and your mailing address. Thanks!

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Eliot Coleman: The 3 Components of the Winter Harvest

Monday, March 30th, 2009

I’m holding an advance copy of Eliot Coleman‘s brand new Winter Harvest Handbook in my hands (Well…I was. I’m typing now, obviously.) and I have to say, it’s gorgeous. Great design and full color photos everywhere. It even smells good (if you’re into that new-book smell, that is.)

I’d like to share some of it with you now.

The following is an excerpt from The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year-Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses by Eliot Coleman. It has been adapted for the Web.

Three Basic Components

The winter harvest, as we practice it at Four Season Farm, has three components: cold-hardy vegetables, succession planting, and protected cultivation.

Cold-hardy vegetables are those that tolerate cold temperatures. They are often cultivated out of doors year-round in areas with mild winter climates. The majority of them have far lower light requirements than the warm-season crops.

The list of cold-hardy vegetables includes the familiar—spinach, chard, carrots, scallions—and the novel—mâche, claytonia, minutina, and arugula. To date there are some thirty different vegetables—arugula, beet greens, broccoli raab, carrots, chard, chicory, claytonia, collards, dandelion, endive, escarole, garlic greens, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mâche, minutina, mizuna, mustard greens, pak choi, parsley, radicchio, radish, scallions, sorrel, spinach, tatsoi, turnips, watercress—which at one time or another we have grown in our winter-harvest greenhouses. (The most promising vegetables, those with which we have the most experience, are discussed individually in chapter 8.) The eating quality of these cold-hardy vegetables is unrivaled during the cooler temperatures of fall, winter, and spring. They reach a higher level of perfection without the heat stress of summer.

Succession planting means sowing vegetables more than once during a season in order to provide for a continual harvest. The choice of sowing dates, from late summer through late fall, and winter into spring, keeps the cornucopia flowing. In midwinter the vigorous regrowth on cut-and-come-again crops provides the harvest while late-fall-and-winter-sown crops slowly reach productive size.

We begin planting the winter-harvest crops on August 1, the start of what we call the “second spring.” We continue planting through the fall. The reality of sowing for winter harvest is that the seasons are reversed from the usual spring-planting experience. Day length is contracting rather than expanding; temperatures are becoming cooler rather than warmer. Success in maintaining a continuity of crops for harvest through the winter is a function of understanding the effect of shorter day length and cooler temperatures on increasing the time from sowing to harvest. Thus the choice of precise sowing dates for fall planting is much more crucial than for spring planting. The dates are also very crop specific, and I’ll explain this in more detail in chapter 4.

We aim for a goal of never leaving a greenhouse bed unplanted, and we come pretty close. Within twenty-four hours after a crop is harvested, we remove the residues, re-prepare the soil, and replant. We keep careful records so as to follow as varied a crop rotation as possible.

Protected cultivation means vegetables under cover. The traditional winter vegetables will often survive outdoors under a blanket of snow. Since gardeners can’t count on snow, the best substitute is shelter of an unheated greenhouse. Many delicious winter vegetables need only that minimal protection.

Our winter-harvest cold houses are standard, plastic-covered, gothic-style hoop houses. The largest of our houses are 30 feet wide and 96 feet long. They are aligned on an east-west axis. For the most part the cold houses need only a single-layer covering of UV-resistant plastic, whereas heated greenhouses benefit from two layers, which are air-inflated to minimize heat loss.

The success of our cold houses seems unlikely in our Zone 5 Maine winters where temperatures can drop to –20˚F (–29˚C). But our growing system works because we have learned to augment the climate-tempering effect of the cold house itself by adding a second layer of protection. We place floating row-cover material over the crops inside the greenhouse to create a twicetempered climate. The soil itself thus becomes our heat-storage medium, as it is in the natural world.

Any type of lightweight floating row cover that allows light, air, and moisture to pass through is suitable for the inner layer material in the cold houses. The row cover is supported by flattopped wire wickets at a height of about 12 inches (30 cm) above the soil. We space the wickets every 4 feet (120 cm) along the length of 30-inch-wide (75 cm) growing beds. The protected crops still experience temperatures below freezing, but nowhere near as low or as stressful as they would without the inner layer. For example, when the outdoor temperature drops to –15˚F (–26˚C), the temperature under the inner layer of the cold house drops only to 15˚F to 18°F above zero (–10˚C to –8°C) on average. The cold-hardy vegetables are far hardier than growers might imagine and, in our experience, many can easily survive temperatures down to 10˚F (–12˚C) or lower as long as they are not exposed to the additional stresses of outdoor conditions. The double coverage also increases the relative humidity in the protected area, which offers additional protection against freezing damage. The climate modification achieved by combining inner and outer layers in the cold houses is the technical foundation of our low-input winter-harvest concept.

In a world of ever more complicated technologies, the winter harvest is refreshingly uncomplicated because all three of these components are well known to most vegetable growers. What is not well known is the synergy created when they are used in combination, and that is what we continue to explore on a daily basis on our farm.

LISTEN: Ruppenthal’s Urban Guide to Sustainable Living Through Food

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

When you think of climate change, you probably think of contributing factors relating to transportation—specifically, the transportation of people from one place to another, be it through cars, trucks, buses, SUVs, motorcycles, and the like. But what’s the connection between your food supply and climate change? That’s the question Crop to Cuisine Radio aims to answer.

In this interview, the folks at Crop to Cuisine talk to author R. J. Ruppenthal (Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting) about the impact of our diet on the atmosphere.

In this episode of Crop To Cuisine we take a look at two authors who come to the forefront of sustainability and food from unlikely backgrounds. Eugene Cordero is a professor of Meteorology and has joined forces with Laura Stec to write Cool Cuisine: Taking the Bite out of Global Warming. And R.J. Ruppenthal is a professor of law. His new publication, Fresh Food From Small Spaces, is a handbook for people living in urban areas that want to live sustainably through food. We speak with both about their passion for food, the role of innovation in a greener world and having fun with all of it.

Listen Now

 

Related articles:

President Obama: What’s So Funny ’bout Taxing And Regulating Marijuana?

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Chelsea Green author Paul Armentano tackles Obama’s cynical rebuff of the question of legalized pot in this article for the Huffington Post:

Speaking live at an online Town Hall Meeting Thursday morning, President Barack Obama pledged “to open up the White House to the American people.”

Well, to some of the American people, that is.

As for those tens of millions of you who believe that cannabis should be legally regulated like alcohol — and the tens of thousands of you who voted to make this subject the most popular question in today’s online Presidential Town Hall — well, your voice doesn’t really matter.

Asked this morning whether he “would … support the bill currently going through the California legislation to legalize and tax marijuana, boosting the economy and reducing drug cartel related violence,” the President responded with derision.

“There was one question that was voted on that ranked fairly high and that was whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy and job creation, and I don’t know what this says about the online audience,” he laughed.

“The answer is no, I don’t think that [is] a good strategy.”

Obama’s cynical rebuff was short-sighted and disrespectful to a large percentage of his supporters. After all, was it not this very same “online audience” that donated heavily to Obama’s Presidential campaign and ultimately carried him to the White House?

Read the whole article here.

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